Alcohol is associated with 4% of cancers detected in 2020. Some of them are associated with “light and moderate” consumption.
In a report published in the journal The Lancet Oncology, researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) proved once again that alcohol is harmful to health. According to the report, more than 740,000 cancers discovered were alcohol-related in 2020. Most of the cancers were found in people with high consumption of alcoholic beverages, but more than 103,000 cases were found in people with moderate consumption, i.e. about two glasses of alcohol per day.
Differences between countries and between the sexes
The researchers point out that the proportion of alcohol-related cancers varies greatly in different parts of the world. There are few cases in North African countries and Western Asia. East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central Europe however, are the areas where alcohol-related cancers are most prevalent. “Trends show that individual alcohol consumption is decreasing in many European countries, while it is increasing in Asian countries such as India and China, and in sub-Saharan Africa,” IARC member Harriet Rumgay said in a statement.
Mongolia has the highest rate of alcohol-related cancers compared to its population: 560 cases, or 10% of all cancers. In Kuwait, the rate is less than 1% with less than 5 cases. In European countries, the rate is 5% in France and 4% in Germany and the United Kingdom. This study has also shown that women and men are not equally affected by this risk: of all alcohol-related cancer cases, 77% were in men. As for the quantities of alcohol, the more you drink, the higher the risk. Heavy drinking is associated with 39% of new cancer cases, and moderate drinking with 14%.
How was this study conducted?
The data for this study were obtained by combining two types of information: the level of alcohol consumption per person per country in 2010, and the number of new cancer cases in 2020 that are generally associated with alcohol consumption.
Most of the cases are cancers of the esophagus, mouth, colon, liver, and breast. For many years, science has shown that alcoholic beverages are a factor in cancer. When alcohol enters the body, it causes the production of chemicals that can break down DNA and alter hormone production.
A possible effect of Covid-19 on the data
“The Covid-19 pandemic has increased alcohol consumption in some countries,” adds Harriet Rumgay. It has also had an impact on cancer diagnosis. Over the next few years, this could result in additional cancer-related deaths.
NB: There are no safe levels of consumption of alcohol and quitting drinking is the safest bet for avoiding alcohol-related health conditions.